halloween safety

Tips for a Safe and Healthy Halloween

With a chill in the air and the promise of tricks and treats, families take to the streets and enjoy the annual tradition of Halloween. It is a time for fun, and it is also a time for safety. Our team at MSCI has put together a few tips to make sure that you and your family have a safe and healthy Halloween.

  • Discard any unwrapped candy

Despite the media frenzy every year, there are very few cases of people ever tampering with candy. However, it is always safe to discard any unwrapped pieces of candy or anything that looks like it has been tampered with. Go through your child’s candy at the end of the night. It is always better to be safe than sorry!

  • Go trick or treating before dark

More accidents occur at nighttime than during the daytime. Trick or treating at night can be dangerous. While most people understand to be on the lookout for children in the street, it is always best to not take the risk. Trick or treating in the evening while it is still light out is the safest time. If you find yourself out at night and still going door to door, be sure you stick to sidewalks when possible.

  • Wear reflectors or reflective tape if going out at night

If you want to trick or treat at night, get some reflectors or reflective tape. Both of these can stick easily to costumes and should be put on the back of your child’s outfit. Perfect for poorly lighted streets, reflective tape and reflectors catch the light from cars and better alert drivers to pedestrians.

  • Go with your child

Younger children will most certainly want you to come along. Older children can still benefit from parental supervision. If they are not keen on the idea of you escorting them from door to door, you can always compromise by walking with them and staying on the sidewalk as your child knocks on the door. From that vantage point, you can still keep an eye on your child and keep them safe.

  • Don’t dress as a clown (this year)

Because media reports about creepy clowns appearing across the country have unnerved quite a few people, we would recommend not dressing up as a clown this year for Halloween. There have been a few reports of violence against people in clown costumes, and while these dressed-up individuals were probably intending to scare others, it is still not a bad idea to skip even cute clown costumes for your children this year.


From the entire team at MSCI, we hope that you and your family have a safe and healthy Halloween!


How You Can Fight Childhood Obesity

September is National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month. The US Department of Health and Human Services estimates that 1 in 3 children are either overweight or obese. Fortunately, children also have the capacity to overcome or avoid the perils of obesity. Children have not developed habits, or if they have, their routine isn’t as ingrained as an adult.

Obesity has been linked to type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease. In the past, these diseases were seen almost exclusively in adults, but now due to the increased instances of childhood obesity, researchers view children at a much higher risk to develop these conditions.

As adults, we can help guide children to better health and set them up for future wellness by implementing some small changes to our everyday routine. Here are a few ideas on how to raise awareness about and reduce the risk of childhood obesity:

  • Planning Healthy Meals. Obviously eating healthier will help improve your child’s health, but most researchers also believe that involving your child in planning meals will raise awareness on what is healthy and what isn’t, as well as balancing their diet. Limiting the number of sweets and overly-processed foods will also help your child learn better eating habits.
  • Encourage Physical Activity. We’re not blaming kids: these days, there are so many fun distractions like computers, smart phones and tablets. However, this means that kids aren’t moving around as much as they used to. Adults should limit time sitting still and promote at least 60 minutes of activity each day.
  • Change The Way We Snack. Everyone snacks, but it’s time to get smarter about snacking. Instead of carbohydrate-heavy chips or crackers, stock up on fresh fruit and veggies. And remember: vegetables don’t have to be presented as bland or necessary. Spice things up and make things fun, like freezing grapes to make healthy-alternative popsicles, or use some peanut butter and celery and add raisins to make the classic ants-on-a-log.

Childhood obesity is a serious problem in our country, but following these tips and encouraging a positive and healthy lifestyle can put your child on the right track to success. What do you do to promote healthy living with your child?


Have a Happy, Healthy Holiday

The holidays are here again, which means spending time with family and friends, giving and receiving thoughtful gifts and enjoying delicious meals over memory-making conversations.  ’Tis the season to indulge! But, to keep waistlines in check, overindulgence should be reserved for glad tidings, joyful experiences and kindness toward others.

The National Institutes of Health reports that Americans gain 1 to 2 pounds over the holiday months and do not typically lose that weight with the coming of warmer weather. Over a lifetime, those extra pounds can really add up, potentially leading to weight-related health issues.

Here are a few tips on how to keep off the pounds during this holiday’s celebrations while still managing to eat, drink and be merry with the rest of the season’s revelers:

  • Eat what you love. Drool while dreaming about grandmother’s sweet potato casserole? Have a year-long hankering for mom’s homemade pecan pie? There are likely two or three holiday menu items that you can’t skip over without real regret, so don’t. Serve yourself a single slice or dollop and really enjoy every bite. Pass over fatty or starchy sides that aren’t your very favorites and add heaping helpings of simply prepared vegetables or fruit in their places. The meal will then balance itself out.
  • Say “no” to noshing. The office will be teeming with holiday cookies, candy, fudge and fruitcakes. Fight the urge to hit up the kitchen for a daily afternoon sugar fix, and limit yourself to one or two treats per week. Eating a healthy breakfast and lunch with ample servings of fruit, vegetables, whole grains and lean protein will help strengthen your resolve so that you can pass right by those holiday treats and only grab a mugful of coffee or a glass of water. The first tip carries over here: Reserve calorie splurges for only those things you really enjoy, and make a little go a long way by truly savoring just a small taste.
  • Go walking in a winter wonderland. With cooler weather, the temptation is to hibernate. But a brisk walk while bundled in thick layers will get the blood flowing and warm up the body — all while torching calories as an added bonus. Winter sports such as snowboarding, snow skiing and ice skating are fun activities for the whole family to enjoy and also help combat holiday weight gains.
  • Come prepared to party. Don’t starve yourself before a holiday event in anticipation of an evening calorie overload. Eat small, healthy snacks throughout the day so that you won’t arrive ravenous. Choose a smaller plate when in line for the buffet, and then only take a few favorite treats. If there’s a veggie tray, help yourself to plenty of carrots and broccoli. Then, start working the room. You’ll find yourself so engaged in great conversation that you may just forget to go back for seconds.
  • Drink to your health. Watch your intake of alcoholic beverages and their sugary nonalcoholic siblings. Enjoy a good glass of wine, your aunt’s homemade eggnog or a cup of warming hot chocolate, but try to limit yourself to one or two drinks over the course of an evening. Drinking a glass of water between more caloric beverages is a great way to pace yourself.
  • Don’t put yourself on the naughty list. The holidays are a time to be a bit kinder to everyone, including yourself. If you slip up and eat yourself sick for one meal, just eat lighter for the next. Keep in mind that it takes an extra 500 calories each day over the course of a week to gain 1 pound. Helping yourself to seconds (or thirds) will not equate to gaining 10 pounds – but negative thoughts like, well, I’ve already blown it so I’m just going to be bad this holiday can completely unravel efforts to curb weight gain in December.

With a pinch of effort, a dash of enthusiasm and a heaping helping of good humor, it is possible to see the same number on the scale Jan. 1 as appeared Dec. 1, even whilst visions of sugarplums dance in our heads.

The health professionals at The Medical and Surgical Clinic of Irving would like to wish you and your family an abundance of health, wealth and good cheer this yuletide season.




Avoid the Back-to-School Blues

The annual transition from summer vacation back to school is a difficult time for most children, but it can be an equally stressful period for parents. If you’re like most, you may be worried about how your kids will transition to a new grade. Read on for some practical things you can do to prepare your child for the school year—and set your mind at ease.

  • Re-establish routines – By setting a regular bedtime and mealtime for your children, you prepare them for the structured schedule they will need to follow at school. Begin the routine a few weeks in advance, so they are wide awake for breakfast on the first day of school.
  • Freeze a few dinners – Keep a couple of meals in your freezer for the first few weeks of school. This way you won’t have to stress about cooking and will have more time to spend with your kids.
  • Create a homework space – Designate and clear a special area where your children will be able to do their homework in peace. During the weeks leading up to school, consider offering crafts or projects they can do area to help them get used to working there.
  • Attend parent-teacher night – Take the time to visit with your children’s teachers so you know what to expect in the coming year.
  • Clear your own schedule – As the big day approaches, be prepared to spend time with your children when they need it. Postpone any business trips or major projects until the school year is underway so that you can be there for your children when they want to talk about how they feel.
  • Be enthusiastic – The best thing you can do for your children is to be excited about the new school year. When you are confident, your children will be confident, too.

    While preparing your children for the first day of school can really help their transition, it is only part of the equation. Especially during the first few weeks, set aside time each night to talk about how your children are feeling about school and positively reinforce the experiences they’ve had—this will help your children adjust to their new grade.


September Is National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month

Follow These Tips to Help Keep Your Child at a Healthy Weight

Childhood obesity is a serious problem in the United States. One in three children is overweight, putting the child at risk for health problems that until recent history were primarily associated with adults. Overweight children can develop heart disease, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes and asthma. They’re also at risk for psychological issues such as low self-esteem, trouble with sleeping and depression.

Armed with the right information, parents can successfully help their children get down to and maintain a healthy weight. Although the issue is a serious one, the solution doesn’t have to be. In fact, it can be downright fun. The Medical and Surgical Clinic of Irving recommends a light approach to family health based on the reality that active children are happy and healthy.

Here are a few of the many enjoyable steps (or skips, if preferred) that parents can take toward improving their children’s health:

  • Play ball. Sports like soccer, basketball, hockey and tennis offer a tremendous regular cardio workout. Children also develop important social skills like how to play well with others and work as a team.
  • Dance like a fool. Ballet, tap and hip-hop classes give children the opportunity to express themselves while working up enough of a sweat to burn some major calories. As an added bonus, parents are sure to get memorable video footage of the requisite seasonal class recital.
  • Go for a ride. Parents could invest in bicycles for themselves and their children. Regular family bike rides are relaxing and hugely beneficial to long-term health. If there is a park nearby, taking a trip to the jungle gym is a great way to up the fitness ante with some child-style strength training.
  • Walk it out. For those who would rather steer clear of bicycles, a good old-fashioned daily stroll can do wonders for maintaining a healthy weight. A great time to go for a walk is after dinner. The activity will help with digestion, will give parents added quality time with their kids and supply an added boost of energy to what is sometimes a sluggish part of the day.
  • Turn off the tube. It is important to set rules for the amount of time children can sit in front of the television or computer, and to stick to them. Without electronic distractions, children will need to get creative to entertain themselves – which will likely mean doing something active like rollerblading or jumping rope.
  • Chalk it up to a good time. With a little chalk and imagination, a hopscotch course can be formed. This competitive hopping game is great for strengthening bones and makes for a good cardio workout. Kids love to draw on the sidewalk – and, lucky for parents, the course will wash away after the next rain.
  • Get cookin’, good lookin’. Good nutrition is essential to maintaining a healthy weight, and children who are involved in food preparation tend to be more likely to eat healthy meals. Start simple with ants on a log (celery topped with peanut butter and raisins), or make a low-calorie pizza by topping a wheat crust with tomato sauce, low-fat mozzarella and veggies.
  • Play hide and seek – and win. The pickiest of eaters won’t be placated by putting on a chef’s hat, so parents have to get creative. Finely processed vegetables are invisible to the eye and taste buds when baked into meatloaf or mixed in a thick tomato sauce. Missy Chase Lapine’s The Sneaky Chef has several easy-to-make recipes that are sure to have kids asking for seconds and parents piling more hidden veggies onto their plates.

If parents are concerned that their child might be obese, it is important that they take him or her to visit a doctor for a professional evaluation. Children develop at different rates, and some have naturally smaller or larger builds than others. A medical professional will be able to assess whether a child is a healthy weight for his or her age, height and frame while also offering further advice on the best steps to reach a healthy weight. The professionals at the Medical and Surgical Clinic of Irving are here as a resource for parents concerned about their children’s weight and any other medical matter.






Stop the Pop!

Consumption of even 1 soft drink per day may be associated with increased negative behavior in young children, new research suggests.
A cohort study of almost 3000 5-year-olds showed that those who drank 1 to 4 servings of soda per day had significantly higher aggressive measurement scores than their peers who drank no soda.
In addition, those who consumed 2 or more servings had higher withdrawn behavior scores, and those who consumed 4 or more servings had higher attention problem scores.
“We were seeing a dose-response effect. So with every increase in soda consumption, the association and the scores basically increased,” lead author Shakira Suglia, ScD, assistant professor of epidemiology at the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University in New York City, told Medscape Medical News.
“This held up even after we adjusted for candy or fruit juice consumption and for a variety of social factors, especially for aggression with the highest level of soda consumption,” she added.
Although the investigators suggest that “future studies should explore potential mechanisms” that might explain these association, Dr. Suglia noted that past research has shown that even 1 soda per day is too many for young children.
“Certainly water or milk is more nutritious and a better alternative. Our advice is consistent with what is already out there: for the very young kids, any soda is not a healthy option. And even for adolescents, I think parents should really limit the amount of soda their kids are drinking.”
The study was published online August 15 in the Journal of Pediatrics.
World’s Biggest Soda Consumers
According to the researchers, more soda per capita is sold in the United States than in any other country.
Although past research has suggested an association between soft drink consumption and aggression, depression, and suicidal thoughts in adolescents, the current investigators sought to examine possible links between sodas and negative behaviors in young children.
The ongoing Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study was created to assess 4849 pregnant women from 20 cities in the United States at delivery. Follow-up interviews were conducted starting when their children were approximately 2 years of age.
For this analysis, the investigators evaluated data on 2929 of these children (52% boys; 51% black, 28% Hispanic/other, 21% white).
When the children were 5 years of age, their mothers filled out the Child Behavior Checklist (CBCL) and reported approximate servings of daily soda consumed, up to “4 or more.”
The mothers were also asked about the consumption of candy/sweets and fruit juice, television viewing habits, social risk factors (including maternal depression and intimate partner violence), and sociodemographic factors.
Results showed that 43% of the children drank at least 1 serving of soda per day, with 4% of the participants drinking 4 or more servings per day.
Unadjusted analysis showed that higher levels of soda consumption were associated with significantly higher overall aggression scores, as well as higher scores on the withdrawal and attention subscales of the CBCL (all, P < .05).
After adjusting for sociodemographic factors, results showed that the participants who drank at least 1 soda per day had a 0.74-point higher mean aggressive behavior score (95% confidence interval [CI], 0.1 – 1.4) than those who drank no soda (P < .05).
Consuming 2, 3, or 4 or more servings was associated with even higher mean aggression scores of 1.8, 2.0, and 4.7, respectively (all, P < .05).
Those who drank 4 or more daily servings also had higher mean scores on the attention problems (1.7; 95% CI, 1.0 – 2.4) and withdrawn behavior (2.0; 95% CI, 0.8 – 3.1) subscales (both, P < .05).
Adjusting for consumption of candy/sweets or fruit juice, television viewing, probable maternal depression, intimate partner violence, paternal incarceration, and obesity in separate analysis of 1868 of the participants still showed an association between high levels of soda consumption and negative behaviors.
Those who consumed 4 or more daily servings of soft drinks had fully adjusted mean scores of 2.62, 1.75, and 0.88 on the aggression, attention problems, and withdrawal subscales compared with those who consumed no soda.
Are All Sodas Equal?
Further analyses showed that the children who consumed the highest levels of soda were more than twice as likely to destroy others’ belongings (odds ratio [OR], 2.54), physically attack people (OR, 2.28), or get into fights (OR, 2.12).
“In this large sample of 5-year-old urban US children, we found strong and consistent relationships between soda consumption and a range of problem behaviors, consistent with the findings of previous studies in adolescents,” write the investigators.
However, future studies “in other populations of children and of a longitudinal nature may provide further insight into the relationship between soda consumption and child behavior,” they add.
When asked, Dr. Suglia reported that the study did not ask about the specific types of soda consumed, such as whether they included diet or noncaffeinated drinks.
“So it would be interesting in the future to try to parse out whether the findings are specific to a certain ingredient that we should be focusing on, such as caffeine or sugar, or is it just overall diet or lack of something they should be consuming? More specific data could be helpful,” she said.
The original study was funded by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. The study authors have disclosed no relevant financial relationships.
J Pediatr. Published online August 15, 2013.